US 20050232260 A1
A computerized switching system for coupling a workstation to a remotely located computer. A signal conditioning unit receives keyboard and mouse signals generated by a workstation and generates a data packet which is transmitted to a central crosspoint switch. The packet is routed through a crosspoint switch to another signal conditioning unit located at a remotely located computer. The second signal conditioning unit applies the keyboard and mouse commands to the keyboard and mouse connectors of the computer as if the keyboard and mouse were directly coupled to the remote computer. Video signals produced by the remote computer are transmitted through the crosspoint switch to the workstation. Horizontal and vertical sync signals are encoded on to the video signals to reduce the number of cables that extend between the workstation and the remote computer. The signal conditioning units connected to the workstations include an onscreen programming circuit that produces menus for the user on a video display of the workstation.
1. A switching system comprising:
a computer-side interface for simultaneously physically connecting to independent, dedicated cables of respective keyboard and analog video outputs of plural computers;
a user-side interface for physically connecting to a first set of independent, dedicated cables of a first keyboard and an analog video input of a first monitor;
an analog video receiving circuit, connected to the computer-side interface, for receiving analog video signals from one of the plural computers through the computer-side interface;
an analog video overlay image generating circuit, disposed between the computer-side interface and the user-side interface, for producing an analog overlay video signals internal to the switching system; and
an analog video overlay circuit, disposed between the computer-side interface and the user-side interface, for combining (1) a portion of the analog video signals received by the analog video receiving circuit and (2) the analog overlay video signals generated internally to the switching system to form a combined analog signal that is output to the first monitor via the user-side interface.
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/683,582 filed on Jan. 22, 2002, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/590,170 filed on Jun. 9, 2000, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,345,323, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/244,947 filed on Feb. 4, 1999, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,112,264, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/969,723 filed on Nov. 12, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,884,096, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/519,193 filed on Aug. 25, 1995, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,721,842. The contents of all of these applications are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates to systems for interconnecting remotely located computers.
In a typical local computer network there are a number of client computers that are coupled via a communication link to a number of network server resources. These resources include file servers, print servers, modem servers, and CD-ROM servers for example. Each server is usually a stand alone computer with its own keyboard, mouse and video monitor. Each client computer can utilize the functions provided by the server computers through the communication link.
Most computer networks have one or more system administrators, i.e. human operators, for the server computers. The system administrators monitor the operation of the software running on the server computers, load new software packages, delete outdated files and perform other tasks necessary to maintain the operation of the network. While most administrator tasks (modifying software, deleting files, etc.) can be performed over the network from a client computer, there are some situations where the network administrators must be physically located at the server computers for direct access to and operation of them. For example, it is not possible to reboot a server computer over the network. If the server computers are not close together, the time required for a task as simple as rebooting can be substantial.
Although it is possible to run dedicated communication links to each server computer in order to allow a system administrator to operate the network from a central location, a large number of cables are required for anything other than a very simple network.
The present invention provides a computerized switching system that allows centrally located network administrators to operate multiple server computers over long distances without requiring a complicated wiring scheme. In general, the switching system allows data transmission between a workstation and a remotely located server computer. A signal conditioning unit receives keyboard and mouse signals from a workstation and generates a serial data packet which is transmitted to a central crosspoint switch. The crosspoint switch routes the keyboard/mouse packet to another signal conditioning unit that is coupled to the remotely located server computer. The signal conditioning unit coupled to the server computer decodes the keyboard/mouse packet and applies the signals to a keyboard and mouse connector on the remote computer in the same manner as if the mouse and keyboard were directly coupled to the remote computer.
Video signals produced by the remote computer are transmitted through the crosspoint switch to the workstation. In order to minimize the number of wires extending between the remote computer and the workstation, the horizontal and vertical sync signals as well as a mode signal are encoded with the analog video signals. The present embodiment of the invention allows any of thirty-two workstations to be connected to any of thirty-two remotely located server computers.
The foregoing aspects and many of the attendant advantages of this invention will become more readily appreciated as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
The present invention is a computerized switching system for allowing a number of computer workstations to be coupled to a number of remotely-located server computers. In the presently preferred embodiment of the invention, up to thirty-two workstations can be connected to any of thirty-two remote computer systems. However, those skilled in the art will recognize that the number of possible interconnections can easily be modified for the environment in which the invention is to be used.
Referring now to
Audio and video signals produced by the remote server computer 52, 54 or 56 are received by the associated pod 76 and transmitted in the reverse direction along the communication link 74 to the central crosspoint switch 60. The central crosspoint switch routes the audio and video signals to one of the communication links 72 for transmission to a pod 70. The pod 70 then supplies the audio and video signals to the associated video monitor 63 and a speaker 69 of the workstation. From a user's perspective, the work station appears as if it is directly coupled to the remote server computer.
The pod 70 generally comprises a central processing unit (CPU) 80 having its own random access and read only memories. A keyboard/mouse interface 82 is coupled to the CPU 80 to receive and condition the electronic signals from the keyboard 65 and mouse 67. As the user moves the mouse or types on the keyboard, the keyboard/mouse interface 82 generates an interrupt signal that is fed to the CPU 80. The CPU 80 then reads the digitally buffered keyboard and mouse signals from the keyboard/mouse interface 82 and converts the signals into a data packet that is transmitted to the remote computer.
As shown in
It should be noted that the pod to pod packets are not limited to carrying keyboard and mouse data. The packets allow the pod at the work station to “talk to” the pod at the remote computers. Each pod acknowledges to the other that a packet was received correctly and in case of an error requests that a packet be retransmitted.
After the CPU 80 has assembled the pod to pod packet, the packet is transmitted to a quad UART 84, which transmits and receives serial data on four leads 84 a-84 d. The pod to pod packet is serialized and transmitted on the lead 84 a to a differential line driver/receiver 88 that transmits and receives data on a number of twisted-pair cables 72 a-72 e, that are coupled to the central crosspoint switch 60 (shown in
As the user is operating the remote server computer, the remote computer may transmit commands which affect the operation of the mouse and keyboard. These include the mouse sensitivity, the keyboard repeat rate, activating one or more LEDs on the keyboard (such as the number lock, capital letter lock, etc.). The keyboard/mouse commands contained in a pod to pod packet transmitted from the remote computer are received on twisted-pair cable 72 b by the differential line driver/receiver 88. The UART 84 converts the received serial keyboard/mouse commands into a parallel format and supplies the data to the CPU 80. The CPU 80 then generates the appropriate signals which are fed to the keyboard/mouse interface 82 and applied to the keyboard 62 b and mouse 62 c.
Video signals transmitted from the remote server computer are received on three sets of twisted-pair cables 72 f, 72 g, and 72 h by a set of differential line receivers 90. The output signals produced by the differential line receivers 90 are supplied to a video amplifier 92. The output of the video amplifier is coupled to a sync extract circuit 94 which removes an embedded horizontal and vertical sync signal as well as a mode signal from the green, blue and red video signals respectively. The sync extract circuit 94 supplies the red, blue, and green analog video signals as well as the horizontal and vertical sync signals on separate leads to an onscreen programming circuit 99 that is described in further detail below. The onscreen programming circuit 99 feeds the video signals to a connector 96, which is coupled to the video monitor of the workstation by a conventional video cable 97. As will be described in further detail below, the horizontal and vertical sync signals are embedded into the green and blue color video signals in order to minimize the number of wires that extend between the workstation and the remote server computer as well as to reduce the complexity of the crosspoint switch.
The CPU 80 also reads a set of four monitor sense leads 95 to determine what type of monitor is connected to it. Monitor sense data is generated and transmitted in a pod to pod packet as shown in
In addition to transmitting and receiving keyboard and mouse signals from the remote computer, the pod 70 can communicate with the central crosspoint switch. Data to be transmitted to the central crosspoint switch are sent on a twisted pair cable 72 c while data transmitted from the central crosspoint switch are received on a twisted pair cable 72 d.
Commands sent between the pod 70 and the central crosspoint switch allow a user to connect the work station to another remote computer, allow the central crosspoint switch to interrogate the status of the pod, update the firmware of the pod, etc. using the packet structure shown in
A block diagram of a pod 76 that is coupled to the remote server computers is shown in
A pod to pod packet that is transmitted from a workstation is received on a twisted-pair cable 74 b and supplied to differential line receiver 140. The output signal of the differential line receiver is supplied to the QUAD UART 136 which converts the packet from a serial format to a parallel format. The CPU reads the packet and then transmits the received keyboard and mouse signals to the keyboard and mouse interface 134 where the signals are supplied to the remote computer's keyboard and mouse connectors in the same manner as if the keyboard and mouse were directly connected to the remote server computer. The particular format of the signals applied to the keyboard and mouse connectors may vary with the type of the remote computer. The CPU within the pod 76 is therefore programmed to translate the signals into their proper format.
Commands sent from the pod 76 to the central crosspoint switch allow the remote computer to interrogate the status of the pod, update the firmware of the pod etc. using the packet structure of
The signals from the remote computer's video port are supplied through a video cable 143 to a connector 144. As will be described below, the red, green and blue analog video signals along with the horizontal and vertical sync signals are supplied to a sync combine circuit 146 that encodes the horizontal and vertical sync signals onto the green and blue analog video signals respectively. The current mode of the monitor (i.e., the correct polarity of the horizontal and vertical sync pulses) is encoded by the sync combine circuit 146 onto the red analog video signal. The output of the sync combine is supplied to an amplifier 148 that conditions the signals and supplies the video signal to three differential line drivers 140 that transmit the signals over three separate twisted-pair cables 74 f, 74 g, and 74 h to the central crosspoint switch.
The monitor sense data received from a remote workstation is decoded by the CPU 120 and supplied to a set of monitor sense leads 147. The remote computer receives the monitor sense data on these leads and adjusts its video signals for the particular monitor that is displaying the video signals.
The audio signals produced by the remote computer are supplied to a differential line driver 140 and are transmitted over a twisted-pair cable 74 c to the central crosspoint switch.
Pod to pod packets are routed from an input card through the switch card to an output card and vice versa on a digital backplane 160. The analog video and audio signals are transmitted between the input cards, the switch card 154 and the output cards 156 on a separate analog backplane 162.
A block diagram of an input card 152 is shown in
To transmit data between the input, output and switch cards of the crosspoint switch, the data is packetized in the format shown in
In order to shield the video signals from the noise on the digital backplane, the video and audio signals transmitted from the remotely located server computer are routed on a separate analog backplane 162. The audio signals received from the remote computer are routed through the input card on a lead 174 e and applied to the analog backplane 162. Video signals are received by the differential line receivers 172 a and routed through the input card on leads 174 f-h to the analog backplane.
In the present embodiment of the invention, each input card includes up to eight sets of differential line drivers/receivers 172 a-172 f (the remaining six driver/receivers not shown) to receive signals from up to eight remotely located server computers. The signals from each remotely located computer are routed through the input card to the digital and analog backplanes in the manner described above.
A switching arrangement of the type shown in
In the presently preferred embodiment of the invention, the digital 16×16 switches 182 are implemented using a pair of 16×8 digital switches as shown in
The analog backplane on which the video signals are transmitted is configured in the same fashion as the switch shown in
To minimize the number of wires that must extend from the remote computer to the workstation, the present invention encodes the horizontal and vertical sync signals onto the analog color video signals transmitted from the remote computer.
The XOR gate 250 operates to encode the horizontal signal as a positively going pulse no matter what the normal state of the horizontal sync signal is. The voltage on the capacitor 254 is equal to the average valve of the horizontal sync signal. The output of the inverting gate 258 has a logic level equal to the non-active state of the horizontal sync signal. The output of the XOR gate 250 is coupled to an inverting input of an amplifier circuit 260. The non-inverting input of the amplifier 260 is connected to receive the green analog video signal. When the horizontal sync signal is in its normal state, the output of the amplifier 260 follows the green analog video signal. However, when the horizontal sync signal is activated, the active video is at zero volts and the amplifier 260 produces a negative going horizontal sync pulse.
The output of the AND gates 284 and 286 are coupled in series with a pair of resistors 290 and 292, respectively. The resistors 290 and 292 are coupled together at a common node 291. Connected between the node 291 and ground is a resistor 293. Each time the vertical sync signal is active, the AND gates 284 and 286 produce a voltage at the node 291 that is proportional to the mode of the video monitor. The proportional voltage is fed into the inverting input of an amplifier 294. The non-inverting input of the amplifier 294 is connected to receive the red analog video signal produced by the remote computer. When the vertical sync signal is in its normal state, the output signal of the comparator 294 follows the red analog video signal. However, when the vertical synchronize signal is activated, the mode signal is encoded on the red video signal.
After the video signals have been transmitted from the remote server computer and through the analog crosspoint switch to the remote workstation, the sync signals are extracted from the green and blue video signals. To extract the horizontal sync signal from the green video signal, the circuit shown in
The circuit required to extract the vertical sync signal from the blue video signal is the same as the circuit shown in
To recover the video mode signal, the present invention utilizes the circuit shown in
A resistor 334 is placed between the output of comparator 320 and the inverting input of comparator 324. Finally, a resistor 336 is placed between the inverting input of comparator 320 and the inverting input of comparator 324.
The mode extract circuit produces two signals, H-mode and V-mode, having logic levels that are dependent on the magnitude of the mode signal encoded on the red video signal. If the magnitude of the mode signal is between 0 and −0.15 volts, the H-mode signal will be low and the V-mode signal will be low. When the mode signal has a magnitude between −0.15 and −0.29 volts, the H-mode signal will be high and the V-mode signal will remain low. The V-mode signal is high and the H-mode signal is low when the magnitude of the mode signal is between −0.29 volts and −0.49 volts. Both the H-mode and V-mode signals are high when the magnitude of the mode signal is less than −0.49 volts. As will be appreciated, the values given above will differ if different circuit components are used.
Once the video mode signal has been decoded from the red video signal, the values of H-mode and V-mode are used to adjust the polarity of the horizontal and vertical sync signals using the XOR gate shown in
As can be seen, the circuits shown in
Having now described the components of the present invention, its operation is described. To connect a workstation to a remote computer, a user sends a command that causes the central crosspoint switch to couple the keyboard/mouse signals to one of the remote computers. As indicated above, commands that affect the operation of the crosspoint switch as inserted between “printscreen” and “enter” keystrokes. The pod connected to the workstation detects these keys and transmits a packet to the CPU on one of the output cards. The CPU then transmits the packet to the master CPU that validates the request and issues a command to the switch cards to set the position of the 16×16 digital and analog switches 182 and 184 (
As indicated above, the present invention provides the capability of allowing a user to send commands from a workstation to the central crosspoint switch in response to prompts that are displayed on the video monitor. The onscreen programming circuit 99 shown in
The onscreen programming circuit 99 produces its own horizontal and vertical sync signals using a sync generator 358. The horizontal and vertical sync signals produced are supplied to a switch 360 that selects either the sync signals produced by the internal sync generator 358 or the external horizontal and vertical sync signals recovered from the green and blue video signals transmitted from the remote computer. The switch 360 receives a signal on a lead 361 that is coupled to the CPU 80 (
The sync polarizer includes a pair of exclusive OR (XOR) gates 400 and 402. The XOR gate 400 has one input connected directly to the sync signal to be polarized. A resistor 404 is connected between the sync signal and the other input of the XOR gate 400. Connected between the second input of the XOR gate 400 and ground is a capacitor 406. The voltage on the capacitor 406 is the average voltage of the sync signals. The output of the XOR gate 400 feeds an input of the XOR gate 402. The other input of the XOR gate 402 is coupled to a logic high signal. The output of the XOR gate 402 will be a negative going pulse each time the sync signal is activated no matter what the normal state of the sync signal is.
The outputs of the sync polarizer 362 are coupled to a horizontal and vertical sync input of an onscreen processor 364. The onscreen processor produces red, green and blue video signals that display one or more alphanumeric characters that are programmed in its internal video ROM memory. To dictate which characters are placed on the video screen, the CPU 80 generates serial I2C interface signals on a pair of leads 363 and 365. These signals are applied to the onscreen processor 364 which causes the processor to retrieve from an internal video RAM characters that are to be displayed on the video screen. The onscreen processor 364 provides two signals HBFK and HTONE that are supplied to an overlay control logic circuit 366. Also supplied to the overlay control logic circuit are four signals from the CPU 80 of the user pod. These four signals are H Tone Enable, OSD Enable, System Video Enable and Transparent. The overlay control logic circuit 366 reads the value of these logic signals and either enables or disables a set of tri-state buffers 368, 370 and 372 on the tri-state buffers 352, 354 and 356. These tri-state buffers 368, 370 and 372 couple the outputs of the onscreen processor 364 to the leads that connect to the monitor's color inputs.
When the tri-state buffers 352, 354 and 356 are in their high impedance state, and the tri-state buffers 368, 370 and 372 are active, then the video screen will only display those signals produced by the onscreen processor. Conversely, if the tri-state buffers 368, 370 and 372 are in their high impedance state and the tri-state buffers 352, 354 and 356 are active then the monitor displays the video signals produced by the remote computer system. If both sets of tri-state buffers 368, 370, 372 and 352, 354 and 356 are both active, then the monitor will display the video signals produced by both the onscreen processor and the remote computer system. The following is a table that defines the logic of the overlay control logic circuit 366.
To activate the onscreen programming display, the user begins the escape sequence by pressing the “printscreen” key. The CPU within the user pod recognizes this key and produces a menu on the video screen. The user then selects one or more items from the menu by typing on the keyboard or moving the mouse. The CPU then interprets these mouse/keyboard inputs as commands that are to be transmitted to the central crosspoint switch. Once the user ends a command by activating the “enter” key, the CPU can generate one or more packets that are transmitted to the central crosspoint switch that enable the user to connect to a different computer, monitor the status of a different computer, etc.
As can be seen, the present invention allows a user to access any of thirty-two remotely located computers from a central workstation. The system operates apart from a network so that if the network fails, a user can still access each of the server computers. Furthermore, the pods act as translators between different keyboard/monitor types and different computers. Because all pod to pod packets have the same format, previously incompatible equipment can be easily coupled together.
While the preferred embodiment of the invention has been illustrated and described, it will be appreciated that various changes can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, although the present invention is described with respect to connecting workstations to remotely located computers for the purposes of system administration, it will be appreciated that the invention also has further uses. For example, it may be desirable to locate expensive computer equipment away from relatively inexpensive terminals. Therefore, the present invention could be used in academic sessions where it is desirable to allow students to operate remotely located computers from one or more workstations. It is believed that the present invention has numerous applications where it is desirable to separate computing equipment from computer display and data input devices. Therefore, the scope of the invention is to be determined solely from the following claims.